Showing posts with label aikido. Show all posts
Showing posts with label aikido. Show all posts


Authority vs omniscience

I went to the sky slopes, and arranged for a normal one hour session with an instructor. It had been about 15 years since I last skied and even then I had little experience; so even though I could manage myself, I could definitely use a little teaching.

So the instructor came and asked what I wanted to learn. "Good question", I thought*. Feeling stupid, I asked what were the options. She offered skiing or snowboarding; from 0 or something specific, like turning or jumping or ... . I settled for rechecking the basics and building up from there.

But that night I kept thinking about the question: what did I want to learn? I had never thought about snowboard; I started skiing when I was 15 without ever questioning or being questioned. I guess I was happy enough to just see snow. So I began googling and reading and watching videos. I already had the equipment for skiing, but in life you pay for things with money or with time, or with both if you're unlucky; I still could avoid throwing good time after bad.

There was too much to read and see and learn for a holidays night, and few holidays days left; so finally I decided to continue with the skis. But I found some shocking things in that hurried investigation.

There was some article about a seemingly famous snowboardist who seemed to do some incredible and innovative things and was being asked to help design some new generation of boards or whatever. He had recently invented some new maneuvre and people were asking him how did he do it exactly, because it was too hard to just imitate; and he explained, but still people could not get the hang of it. So after studying videos by themselves, they finally made up some theory of what he was actually doing and tested it, and told the original creator about it, and then he started using that as an input to change what he explained and what he did.

First: it's interesting that he was good at doing something but simply was not good at explaining it. In fact he was even being misleading. But it's even logical: people wasn't interested on him because he was a good teacher but because he was a good snowboarder. And knowing how to snowboard doesn't imply knowing how to teach... nor even being conscious of what you do that is so good.

But, the shocking part was that those people had the nerve to correct him about what he said he was doing. Imagine that! In most of the Aikido world I have known up to now, with its rigid snobbish japanese background, that kind of offence surely would only be washable off with blood.

But... no, in fact the shocking-est part was ... that he was accepting the corrections, and was paying attention, and was changing accordingly the way in which he tried and explained other things. (Heck, he was even rethinking how he did the thing itself!)


How incredibly healthy and fresh.

I think it was at that moment that I managed to put the finger on one of the things that were making Aikido uncomfortable for me. The arrogance, the hierarchy, the dogma. And with that the partisanism, the elitism, the blindness.
Which are normal everyday human things, but which are specially awkward in someone who supposedly follows something named "way of the harmony with the spirit".

Next day I again arranged with the same instructor, and explained my situation: I was able to survive skiing down a good range of slopes; but that was it: I could survive. Now I wanted to / wondered if I could make it actually enjoyable. I even started asking her about what did she like in skiing, what was in it for her. And she seemed curious and interested in how the conversation was going; looked like it was getting atypical. She told me how some people liked the speed and adrenaline, and some other simply enjoyed the movement; when I asked about her, she definitely chose moving; actually she said "like dancing".
Which was specially meaningful, given that she was an ex-competition ski racer or some such. She told me about how she started as a child, helping her father who worked in the slopes, and skiing very soon and very late when she was alone...

Heh, actually I started writing about this only because of the relationship with my disenchantment with Aikido (or maybe with most of the Aikido people I have met); but that last part suddenly means also a lot about dancing and feeling. Interesting; but of course when all of this happened, about 2 years ago, I still had no interest in dancing.
Well, looks like going back sometimes helps find new angles.

* With a hat tip to Douglas Adams.



(sounds better than Aikikizomba... ;P)

The Bachaturo festival was not exactly very well organized. In fact if I had came from far away I guess I would be pretty pissed off. I've heard that last year it was much better, and that this edition was problematic because it had to be rescheduled after the Smolensk plane accident...

Anyway, the high point for me has been Kwenda. He was funny and interesting just as a Kizomba teacher. But then it got stranger / more interesting: there was a class called "Kainzen Dance". Looks like that was a typo and the real name is "Kaizen" (shitty organization!).

Sounded like something japanese, and I half assumed some Noh-style dance or similar (read: not interesting ;P ). So when I finally went in because some other class was overcrowded, ... surprise. Incense, and some mix of afro bodymovement and... exercises that reminded me the strangest Tai Chi class I had, so long ago.

I wouldn't say I liked it (it felt a bit rushed, maybe because of how unexpected it was; and possibly because I keep feeling somewhat reluctant to go back into, say, "Aikido-like" subjects), but I guess it made sense, moreso when combined with other things Kwenda explained in other classes. Again, lots of emphasis in what you would probably call energy work in Aikido and Tai Chi. Suffice to say that the keywords were "intention", "feeling" and "breathing".

Which was refreshing, since I had been trying to find and apply/shoehorn those things into my dancing. Not only in Kizomba, but now looks like it is maybe the most appropiate dance for that; maybe after having been so forcefully introduced into it.

In any case, Kaizen is a japanese word (seems to mean "improvement"), and Kwenda himself in an interview says that "he doesn't want to say it is dance therapy because it is more than that". I'd love to know what is the story behind.

Also interesting was that other teachers in other Kizomba classes also dedicated the whole hour to leading exercises that were again basically "energy work". And some of the people complained that they were expecting to learn figures; ironic that one of the girls who complained (and left the class) danced exactly like she could use some of those exercises. Ironic too that Kwenda himself had previously warned in a previous class that it is too common to want to learn figures without knowing what to really do with them; without knowing how to dance. I wonder if she had been there and purposefully ignored it, or ...?

And I wonder how other people reacted to that kind of atypical exercises. I still couldn't put in practice so explicitly those things; I certainly will. Will be interesting to see if there are partners willing to experiment. :P
(Not that I need to make it explicit to them, but... would be nicer)

Apart from all of that: Kwenda also stroke another chord. He told us to randomly walk around the classroom and hug the other people. Imagine the awkwardness. Then, he asked us why we wanted to dance Kizomba, which consist on closely hugging someone for a whole song, since we don't like to hug people.

My answer would have been that I don't want to dance Kizomba with random people, in the same way that I don't feel like hugging random people. In fact, I need to have something previously to try to dance Kizomba.

And again I wonder about what would have the other people answered. I see other people, mostly those who dance well, dancing without a problem with lots of other people. So of course, lots of practice, so they dance well. Which is the reason I am already almost accepting that I won't be able to dance well Kizomba nor Bachata. I simply can't practice a lot.

But Kizomba is less "aggressive"; smoother, I guess. More elegant. And I generally prefer it. Maybe there is more future there.



3 months ago, I started a Salsa course.

 In fact it was an unexpected and (supposedly) quick experiment. I had played percussion for some years in my hometown's music band; that was about 10 years ago. So when I saw a short weekend minicourse in a dance school about how to play latin percussion in salsa music, I went in. At the moment, someone I knew was asking me to play percussion in their oh-so-amateurish group, so I thought it could be a quick way to regain some practice and have a go at playing with them.

The percussion course ended up being not too interesting. Like the group anyway. But, that same day I found that a Salsa (on1/linear) crash course was about to start, just after the percussion course. I was already there in the school, with no other plans for the weekend, and the Salsa course would be in fact almost gratis for me. So... why not?

 That night there was also the periodic saturday latin party in the dance school (Salsa Libre), which started with a dancing class. So at that moment I had already 3 class hours, and could try dancing (with good advantage!) with other starting people. Two more class hours on sunday, another party on monday...

I was really lucky to find myself in that crash course, because I don't think the effect would have been the same if I had had to wait a month to reach that level (the crash course was 4 hours a week, while a standard course is 1 hour a week). But the way it happened, it was just addictive.

Interestingly, I'm not alone at that. It's funny that when I was beginning to feel guilty about spending too much time in this I started recognizing a number of other people which were popping up in the same courses and schools and parties as me. Others have told me that they also started like that and later began to limit it... Which I will do at some moment too, but for now I'm living out the obsession. So, 3 months, a number of other courses and even a salsa festival later... Madness, I tell you!

And the question that worries me is: why do I like it? what for? I mean, I have been practising Aikido for more than 5 years. There was a sense of purpose there: the personal/spiritual angle, and the practical/objective angle (self-defence, although I'm not sure about how much do I still believe in that).

But, dancing? What for?

Of course, I can look for easy, a posteriori reasonings. It is a good way to meet lots of new people (girls, mainly :). It is a good way to do some exercise. But, the fact is, in these months I have barely really made any new acquaintance - so, so much for the social part of the thing: lots of dances with lots of new people, but that doesn't directly translate into something you could call friends. The exercise part, well, it for sure beats sitting all day long, but it's a bad joke compared to any regular Aikido class.

So, again... what for??

No fucking idea. Yet (I hope). I only know I'm loving it. Maybe it's the surprise/ego boost of being told that I'm actually good at it? (Dangerous!) Lots of people seem to suppose that it's the "spanish blood". Yeah, sure; the blood, and not the years of percussion and of Aikido. Nor trying to practice as much as possible. Some even think that spanish people already have a feeling about how to dance salsa and such. "You are spanish? So you already know how to dance bachata, right?". Like when someone told me recently that he had been to Barcelona and the food wasn't as spicy as expected. It took me some effort to realize he was expecting some tabasco-class thing in Spain...

It also took me some effort to make some people understand that in Spain it's more typical to find flamenco than "latin" dancing. Or so I think anyway, I wasn't into that world when I came to Poland. But interestingly, in the salsa festivals I am seeing lately, there are no spanish teachers; although there are from Portugal, France, Italy, UK, India, Turkey... and South / Central America, of course.

(hm, should I try flamenco? I don't think I like the idea...)

The Aikido thing is another interesting point; what is the relationship? Turns out that all the feeling, the connection with Uke in Aikido is really useful in salsa. But at the beginning I also had to make a conscious effort not to convert some movements into atemis and whatnot. In fact, there are still some figures which make me feel uncomfortable; too close to positions that in Aikido would quickly get painful (and you don't (usually) want the pretty lady with wich you are dancing to scream in pain :). Like some transitions from hammerlock.

Another relationship with salsa, in a negative way: in Cuban salsa, when beginning some enchufla, I was told I was taking too big steps, moving in a strange way when changing places with my partner. I realized I was using some uchi kaiten routine! (Would have been funny to explain the origin of the problem to my partner at the moment. Would she appreciate that I could apply like 3 atemis per enchufla? :D )

Anyway, I guess knowing how to move (in sometimes complicated ways) must have been a plus when dancing. Again, better that than just having been just sitting on my ass, I guess. And another reason why I suspect I like it: I was a walkman addict for much of my life. I was always singing to myself. Having studied music helped, I guess - it made me hate piano and sol-fa, but gave me the basics to later get into violin and percussion and knowing how to reason about a number of things related to music. And well, simply being able to add movement, and to directly feel and follow and interpret the music... feels great. 

But there are points here that still get me thinking a lot, and which I hope to be able to explain to myself and write at some moment...

(OMG: Out of unhealthy curiosity, I just tried googling "aikido salsa", and found this. The Horror. The Horror...)



I remembered something like "the eyes still looked like asking if, whatever it was the universe was doing to him, would it please stop doing it". Douglas Adams, but ... where, what exactly? Some googling shows that the correct fragment was from "So long, and thanks for all the fish": "Only the eyes still said that whatever it was the Universe thought it was doing to him, he would still like it please to stop."

 I can't remember why I thought the best book was "Hitch Hiker´s Guide to the Galaxy"; simply thumbing through SLATFATF has made me want to read it again. Perhaps it was the most... humane of the lot. The love story was so touching. The descriptions of the fish bowl, of how Arthur sensed the strangeness of the new Earth. And Fenchurch's disappearance was so… suddenly cruel.

 I love so much Adams' style. Just recenty finished (finally!) "Thief of time" by Pratchett, and tried to stop comparing him to Adams and let him stand by his own rights. He can, he's good, he's funny, even interesting sometimes. But he is also artificial, he feels like he actively wants to be funny and works hard to be, and while usually he manages to… Adams just overwhelms you into awe and submission, as if it just had to happen.

Just remembered I started collecting his quotes years ago. I started with post-its in one of the books; had to switch to pieces of post-its because there were too many of them, usually various in the same page; and finally had to stop before I finished the book, since it made no sense. The whole book needed to be re-read. It was "The Restaurant at the End of The Universe", I think.

 I wonder how much of my own style comes from Adams. After all, he was the most important cause for me to finally learn English. But I wonder how much I absorbed, and how much was already there. Like Faemino y Cansado in spanish, like the Monty Python. The problem is, that style wants to come out even when speaking, or when writing not necessarily humorous prose…

Anyway, there was already a quote from Terry Pratchett that imprinted me hugely:

In the second scroll of Wen the Eternally Surprised a story is written concerning
one day when the apprentice Clodpool, in a rebellious mood, approached Wen and spake thusly: 
"Master, what is the difference between a humanistic, monastic system of belief in which wisdom is sought by means of an apparently nonsensical system of questions and answers, and a lot of mystic gibberish made up on the spur of the moment?" 
Wen considered this for some time, and at last said: "A fish!" 
And Clodpool went away, satisfied.
Interestingly, that quote has already put me on odds (directly or indirectly) with a couple of Aikido teachers. Which validates Pratchett, of course. And makes me want to pay more attention to ...